House of Darkness Review


House of Darkness releases to limited theaters on Friday, Sept. 9.

Playwright-turned-filmmaker Neil LaBute leads star Justin Long to the slaughter in a gothic, chatty spin on the Bram Stoker-verse with House of Darkness. Given that LaBute's first film -- 1997's In the Company of Men -- was his own play adapted for the screen, it makes sense that House of Darkness feels like a spare stage play brought to life in a slightly bigger way, and there's a risk-taking element that's to be commended with that. But the end result is still a rather dry, one-note entanglement that doesn't offer up any reprieve for viewers who are in on the bit.
Long is at his most stumbly, bumbly self here as a cad who, for 90 minutes, is forced to explain himself over and over because of his feeble flirting and small talk while on a date with a mysterious woman played by Kate Bosworth. Long is very good at this mix of arrogance and awkwardness, as this is not his first (nor his last) time playing a s***heel who winds up in the wrong house, on the business end of horror, but House of Darkness is wears very thin over time.
Once you figure out what's in store for Long's "hoping to get lucky tonight" Hap, who has a hard time matching up his lies and insecurities with his "nice guy" persona, there's not much more at play here other than finding meager joy in Bosworth's terse, to-the-point character cutting this guy down with just a few words -- or, usually, with questions asking him to clarify his intent. LaBute made a name for himself writing about masculinity and gender disparity so watching it play out in a spooky setting is refreshing. The film itself, though, isn't able to sustain under the staging and setting, so a stagnancy sets in.
Would House of Darkness have been made and presented differently outside of the pandemic era or was the idea always to blend a two-person date play into something vampiric (with female empowerment overpinnings)? Regardless, the end result is an interesting misfire that only really carries itself across the finish line by relying on our sheer desire to see this guy get demolished and for it all to be over. Oh, and Bosworth being drop-dead hypnotic as the lady, Mina, who's invited a bar-bro home to her freezing cold country castle.
House of Darkness isn't exactly a two-person gig, though, as one of the ways the story pushes itself along is with the introduction of Gia Crovatin (Billions, Syfy's Van Helsing) as another dweller in the manor who only serves to help Long's tipsy tomcat dig himself into a deeper hole, desire-wise. This definitely aids the back half of the film but, simultaneously, presents more of the same, adding to the dastardly repetition at work. Dracula fans may latch onto small tells and talismans here and there but the final result is still a movie that makes its point early and then doesn't offer much afterward.
Best Horror Movies So Far In 2022<b>X</b>
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Ti West’s X is as glorious and malevolent a return to horror features that anyone could ask for from the indie filmmaker turned prolific television director. IGN’s official review gave X an 8 out of 10, which I come in a little higher on myself. West’s incorporation of countless influences from Giallo to 70s sleazeploitation makes for an artfully chaotic brand of contemporary slasher. It’s handily one of A24’s better horror films, filled with gratuitous but oh-so-slick gore and all the sweltery southern terrorization in films like The Town That Dreaded Sundown or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
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Performances across the board help make X so memorable. It’s Jenna Ortega’s year in horror without any question, but she’s only one piece to X’s blood-splattered puzzle. Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Mia Goth, and more play above-and-beyond parts as pornographers trying to elevate their medium. West has loads of fun comparing horror to pornography in terms of public perception, while characters are granted agency beyond easy stereotypes. What’s not to like about a sex-positive slasher that swings a big ego and delivers as promised?<b>The Black Phone</b>
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Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill strike horror gold again with The Black Phone. IGN’s official review dials in a 9 out of 10, as Amelia concludes, “The Black Phone mixes the supernatural with relatable horrors in ways that will leave you both terrified and hopeful.” It’s that hopefulness that I wasn’t expecting because Ethan Hawke’s child kidnapper “The Grabber” sure is a nasty son-of-a-gun. Child actors Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw play their parts so tremendously well, it's impossible not to leave thinking the kids will be alright.
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Direction goes a long way for The Black Phone because Derrickson shows a confident and transformative command of The Grabber’s basement. It feels massive when Thames’ victim searches around for escape clues and claustrophobic when The Grabber comes downstairs to enhance sensations of chilly isolation. Add in a few paranormal scares and killer mask designs by Tom Savini, and you’ve got a definitive crowd-pleasing horror film worth acclaim. Not like that’s anything new for the team behind Sinister.<b>Nope</b>
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Jordan Peele’s no stranger to “Best of” horror lists between Get Out and Us — and Nope is no different. It’s Peele having a blast with Twilight Zone influences on a Speilbergian sci-fi scale. We don’t toss around the term “Event Horror” anymore (used to describe blockbuster horror flicks that devour the screen) but Peele has become a champion for such spectacle filmmaking now for a third time with Nope. Audiences will find an immensely entertaining UFO mystery with laughs and chills — but that’s just on the surface.
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Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, and Steven Yeun explore the nasty histories of minorities being tossed aside and forgotten by Hollywood. Our ugly relationship with spectacles is put on display while Peele still manages to keep us in awe of the overarching alien threat. Peele operates outside the more overt social commentaries of Get Out and Us, without ditching a directorial voice that’s arguably the most unique in contemporary horror cinema. In Peele we trust, and there’s a reason IGN gave the film a 9 out of 10 in our official review.<b>Scream</b>
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Radio Silence’s Scream sequel does right by franchise creators Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. It’s a requel that plays into all the tropes and decades-later revamps that have tried tirelessly to revive franchises gasping for air. IGN’s Amelia Emberwing gave the film a 9 out of 10, saying, “All of the performances are pitch-perfect, the kills are gnarly, and no version of toxic fandom is left unmocked.” I agree with those words, since the film so lovingly pays homage to multiple threads from Williamson’s original script with all the sharp genre commentary Craven loved to exploit.
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The year of “Jenna Ortega: Our Scream Queen” continues since she stars alongside Melissa Barrera as slasher surviving sisters, meeting franchise favorites like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, and Courteney Cox. There’s no chip on the shoulders of Radio Silence as they direct through another massacre that’s the most violent and relentless to date, yet comedy thrives as Jasmin Savoy Brown becomes the Meeks we deserve. Scream (2022) channels Craven, guts “Horror Twitter” with scathing commentary against gatekeepers, and feels comfortably at home in the franchise. That’s all Scream fans can ask for, shake ups and all.<b>The Innocents</b>
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In my IGN review for The Innocents, I conclude, “The Innocents is a slow-burner that stars a majority small-fry cast and yet is far more poised and impactful than those descriptions suggest.” What’s so stunning about this dark Norwegian take on children with superpowers is how mature the film treats its subjects. There’s never a desire to water-down dire consequences because wee younglings are in charge. If anything, the screenplay amplifies concepts around children not understanding the harm they can cause and how quickly some are forced to grow up.
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It’s a playground metaphor for unchecked aggression and the corruption of unlimited powers. Kids start levitating rocks and realizing they’re far more special than their parents ever imagined — both a blessing and a curse. Horror elements interfere when one child uses his abilities in hurtful ways, as the other powered children wonder how to stop his rein of terror. It’s an impactful film about choices and how quickly humans succumb to their worst impulses, made immensely more impactful given the age of all players involved.<b>Watcher</b>
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I liked Watcher a tad more than IGN’s Amelia Emberwing, whose 7 out of 10 review says, “The story will linger too long for some, but anyone willing to stick with it is in for a treat.” Chloe Okuno’s feature debut needs nothing more than a woman abroad and the man whose eyes are always locked on said woman’s figure. It’s highlighting horrors of the outside world, as society repeatedly tells women they’re perfectly safe and to stop overreacting, right before another innocent life is taken by some dude who stalked another innocent soul home late one night.
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Maika Monroe stars as the American wife of a businessman who relocates to Bucharest, Romania. Even without Burn Gorman’s insidious neighbor who ends up being the “Watcher,” Okuno does well to accentuate the loneliness of a partner doing right by their spouse through sacrifice and discomfort. Then the social commentary and voyeuristic unrest take over as both Maika and Burn do their best on the respective sides of an invasive, grossly vulnerable stalker scenario that uses reality as the utmost impetus for horror cinema. Why create imaginary monsters when our lives are filled with real ones?
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matt Fowler

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